Looking for conscious, love-based answers to some of the most pressing parenting questions?
Stick on by for this in-depth parenting interview where a friend of mine, parenting coach Abdullah Atturki, asks me some of the questions he most frequently hears by parents when doing his parenting classes and workshops.
During this parenting interview I will tell my viewpoint on well-known parenting issues such as those below:
Boiled down to the essence, the parenting questions Abdullah asks me all revolve around the basic theme of what it is that stands in the way of our happiness as parents and how we can make parenting more joyful for all parties involved.
The overall answer to the above question may not be what you think.
You see, it's got nothing to do with your
kids or other things in the world. It's got to do with your own
mind and how you think.
What I will explain in this interview is how our often rigid, unconscious beliefs may stand in the way of us consciously loving our children.
Thus the answers to Abdullah's parenting questions do not contain a practical hand-on guide on how to do stuff. It is more a reflective minds-on guide on how to be free and more loving. And it's more simple than you might think!
Now, before embarking on this journey of discovery, I will the scene for Abdullah to quickly present himself.
And with no further ado ...
I am Abdullah Atturki. I'm a parenting coach, author of Tarbiah101 (first Arabic YouTube channel that's dedicated for making parenting better and easier) and author of The Journey of Transformation, an audio series to parenting transformation.
I can't remember the number of times people have complained to me about how difficult parenting is. At first I couldn't relate to what they were saying because I always believed and still believe that parenting is easy and fun.
However, as I continuously meet more clients in my coaching sessions and more participants in my workshops, I started to become even more aware of the challenges they face which led them to believe that parenting is difficult!
Today, I'm interviewing an awesome parenting expert who I refer to as a researcher also. I was once, by coincidence, reading her website when I realized she was someone I really wanted to get to know more and work with.
She has a very interesting understanding of
parenting that I'd like the world to know more about, so let's start
the interview by the first question about her:
How did you
get started as a researcher in parenting?
When was your passion ignited in this field?
These are such interesting parenting questions to me. Especially because you use words that I rarely use in relation to myself: You say that I'm a researcher, I might be, but I don't really see myself as a researcher, at least not in the conventional sense. You imply that I have passion for the parenting field; I guess have, it's just not the way that I look at things.
All I am is really just an avid lover of truth and insights - I love it when I can make new connections and get a chance to rewire my brain anew. I guess you could call that a passion if you like. A passion for rediscovering myself and the world.
The way that I seem to work is that I take as little for granted as possible. I seem to question everything. Not because I say to myself that I should, it's just what I naturally do. I don't consider myself critical or sceptical, I more find myself deeply curious about how things seem to work.
And if I a get a feel or whiff that something doesn't quite seem right (e.g. this feels biased, a perspective seems to be missing or there appears to be unbalance in a viewpoint etc.), I naturally question it.
So what I could do is I might look stuff up, research things to broaden my view but it's all done for my own pleasure of taking it inside and say to myself; 'Does this feel right?', 'Does it add to my own understanding', 'Does it feel more true than my previous belief?' etc.
So I guess my natural modus operandi is that I check stuff I meet with my gut feel and intuition in order to see if I can expand or clarify what I feel is right. You could say that this is a very unscientific or unresearchy way of going about things. It might be. That's just the way that I work and I don't mind that. It seems to work for me.
And when did I start the journey in this field?
Well, actually I owe that to my brother. When my son was a couple of years old, my brother was starting his own website on personal development and really encouraged me to start a website myself.
That was a good idea I thought, but what on earth should I write about? I don't really know anything specific about anything, I said to him.
Yes, you do, he said, you know something about parenting and being a mother.
I guess I do, I concluded but with a certain amount of hesitancy. Because really, in no way did I considered myself an expert (I still don't consider myself an expert. I prefer to see myself as learner, a student. In that way, life is a lot more fun as there is always new things to discover).
Well, I think you're an expert, my brother said. You might not yet have read about all sorts theories on parenting styles, development stages etc., but you know something about how stuff works on the inside. You know something about love and connection, which is rather unique.
Okay, I said, I don't know about that. You may be right. I just AM. I don't DO much.
Exactly, my brother said, that is what is needed out there.
And that was the beginning
of the whole thing.
I really find parenting fun, however, in my seminars many people complain desperately about how difficult it is. What is your opinion about it Birgitte, is it difficult? (Trying to get the child to behave)?
This is such an interesting parenting question, is parenting
difficult? I view parenting as just one of many important fields in
life. And no field in itself is difficult.
What makes something difficult is the beliefs we have about how things should be. And if those beliefs are directly opposed to reality (the way things are) we will experience pain.
So if we have a lot of ideas about how we want our children to behave, what we want them to do, what we want them to say, how we want them to say it - and they don't do it, we experience pain.
And the reason we experience pain is because our dear children don't comply with our thoughts or beliefs. In other words, they are not obeying our belief about how things should be. And a belief is nothing but a thought we have attached ourselves to and which we take for granted is the truth.
Also if we are under the impression that we can control our children, we are living in yet another painful belief. We might with manipulation, punishment or love withdrawal be able to force our children's external behavior in a certain direction. But that solution will always be short term and we can never control what they are thinking and feeling or doing when we are not looking,
Because they are not us! They are them!
And this is actually a very important insight even though it sounds so obvious.
You see, we call them our children. But really, they are people in their own right. And if you look at your child in terms of being a person, a whole human being, does it make any sense that you have the right to control and manipulate this person? Not really, does it?
In my experience;
every parenting challenge has a reason and can be turned into an
opportunity with more awareness, yet parents face many recurring
challenges. Why is that?
I see recurring
challenges as reminders that something we are thinking and doing is
not right for us. Something is wrong with the way we think. It has
got absolutely nothing to do with the child. The child is always
perfect just the way he or she is. Why? Because that's the way he or
she is! Simple logic, right?
So if something isn't working, what we can do is to look inside and first identify what it is that is causing us pain. What belief is clashing against reality?
It might be that we have this idea that our child should clean his room once a week, or that he should spend more time on his homework.
First of all, it's a great step up in awareness to be able to identify and isolate the belief that is causing us pain. Some of the most precious beliefs we have are often some that we don't want to recognize as mere ideas. We think they are the truth. But really, they're not. They're just thoughts. Just beliefs. And the more we hang on to a certain belief and try to squeeze it into reality even though it's kicking and screaming, the more painful it is.
So until we have learned that what we thought was normal, what we thought was the truth, was nothing but a belief, we will experience life as a struggle. But when we see it for what it is; just a belief, we are free to let go of it ... if we want to.
And the funny thing about reality is that it will keep throwing beliefs right in our face, until we realize what is going on. Until we realize we have something we need to look at and work with in ourselves. That seems to be the way things work.
So recurring parenting challenges are are wonderful opportunities - wake up calls from reality saying, 'hey buddy, you've fallen asleep, you have a belief you need to look at and maybe let go off.'
I learned that in the old days submissiveness was practiced more in our lives specially in parenting, thus children were more obedient. However, today things seem to be the other way around. How can we deal with that Birgitte?
Many people say that, I've heard it too. However, I would
actually dare to question that statement. Is it really so that
disobedience have replaced obedience and submissiveness? I'm not so
sure. It might be so, but to me that is not the interesting thing.
I would take a look at who is telling that story. My guess would be that this is a story told by parents who are frustrated with their child finding him or her disobedient and disrespectful. And when being angry at the state of affairs, it is a very natural reaction to paint a more (in their eyes) pretty and now out-of-reach picture of how things used to be. Doing that takes away responsibility and thus provides a short term peace of mind; 'It's a trend in society, I'm a victim of it and I can't do nothing about it.'
That being said though, I would nuance the picture of past time obedience: For instance, when I hear childhood stories told by my father who grew up in France, yes, parental, school and societal expectations of obedience seemed to be more prevalent.
BUT at the same time, children seemed to be also fighting it and coming up all sorts of counter actions, thus being VERY rebellious and disobedient when the parents and teachers weren't looking. So I guess it's a question of perspective.
important to change the way we do parenting? Where is it we should
If what we are doing feels right and
causes no suffering, then it's a good indicator that that what we
are doing is probably right for us and thus no change is needed.
But if there is something we don't like or we find is painful that is often a good hint that change could be a good idea.
So look for what hurts, and there you've got a place that might benefit from some sort of change.
And where should we start?
Well, I always start with myself. Always.
Ultimately our experience and how we think and what we do is the only thing we can ever hope to change. It's the only thing really within our control.
And the beautiful encouraging thing that seems to happen is that when we change, so do our surroundings.
If we become more loving, accepting and peaceful, so do our loved ones. Love is so contagious that you cannot be near it without changing more into love yourself. It's seems impossible.
So work on
yourself and start noticing what happens. You'll be amazed.
I believe that in every field there are certain key
principles that can make it work easier. If there was one in
parenting what could it be?
An important key
principle is what I call the
mirror effect. Whatever you are, is
what your children will become. Whatever emotion you emit and say, your
children will take in and transform into their own inner voice.
So for instance, if you become angry with your children, scold them and tell them that they are impossible, never listen, and always fail to do what you say, they will adopt the angry and unaccepting attitude, and thus become angry and unaccepting themselves. What is said becomes their inner voice and thus they will believe and say to themselves, 'I'm impossible and will always fail.'
If you are love and show tolerance and acceptance, your children will take on that loving energy and show love towards you. They will believe that they are worthy of being loved and accepted just the way they are.
These processes are the simple mechanics of the mirror effect. And it works, it really does. Decide what you are, and BE it and notice what happens.
Birgitte, bear with me please, but I'm a practical man
and when I deal with things, I need to see action steps, so what can
you provide us of steps we could follow?
Well, I'm not sure about how much action you'll find in anything that I'm saying, but if I were to pull something out of my sleeve that is related to what I've just shared, I guess it would be something along the lines of this exercise:
And one requirement for the trait is that it should also be something you are willing to see grow in yourself. It doesn't matter whether you feel you have lots or little of it yourself. Thus it could be acceptance, love, tolerance, joy, patience, peace etc.
Everything that you say
and do is saturated with the energy of that trait. No matter how
people behave towards you, decide that you are the embodiment of
what you've decided to be.
As you do this, notice what happens with yourself and how you feel. Notice your surroundings, how they react.
instance one hour each day for a week or more if you feel like it.
And again, notice what is happening with yourself and your children.
Also notice how much effort you are putting into the exercise. My guess would be less and less as time goes by.
After some time, sit down with a broadminded friend or good coach and talk about what has happened and what you have noticed. Then you can decide what to do next.
When told to be
more loving, some parents might misunderstand and turn to being
permissive instead, which will break the balance of authenticity in
the relationship. Could you give an example of how to be more
accepting and loving and what it means?
I understand what you mean. The way that I distinguish between being loving and being permissive is to see if I can somehow, somewhere detect a presence of fear.
I know that's not easy as fear can be difficult to
identify - but in my experience the manifestation of fear in
permissiveness often shows itself in the disguise of hopelessness or
desperation; 'I can't handle it anymore or I'm scared of my child's
outbursts - so I'll give in just to get some peace of mind."
Permissiveness seems to have the uncomfortable feel of a short cut to short term peace - you give in but you don't really feel that good about it. There is a nagging sensation that it might not be the right thing to do - not for you, not for your child.
Whereas when you're being loving, you just know it's right. It just feels that way. Your mind may doubt your actions (because they on the surface smell a bit of permissiveness) but your heart knows it's right.
So in terms of feeling which is which, you need to be still to be able to hear the truth. You may not get it the first time, but keep at it. Listen. And it will be clearer as time goes by.
If I were to come up with an example of being loving versus permissive it could be this:
When my son turned three, I was
told by the dentist that he should soon stop using his pacifier as
it might hurt the growth of his teeth.
Okay, I thought, that sounds like a challenge, but as an adult I need to keep the long term perspective for my son as he does not yet have any. So, I decided, the pacifier must go!
Having made that decision, I still didn't really know how to go about it in practical terms; how could I fulfill his needs and show him I respected him but still adhere to the long term perspective of taking good care of his teeth?
Well, I decided to let reality play itself out and see what would come to me.
The following evening as I laid down next to him as he was to fall asleep (the top favorite pacifier time), I started talking to him:
I said, 'Today when we were at the dentist, she told me that we should soon stop using the pacifier because it will hurt your teeth. It will push them and they might go all crooked. I know you love your pacifier, but maybe you can help me with this. As we lie here, if you can tell me exactly when you need it, you can have it to suck on and then when you feel that you've sucked what you needed, I will ask you if I can take it away for a while.'
While my son may not have understood 100% of what I was saying or the consequences of it, he understood by the intensity and deep connection and presence that I wanted him to be part of something important and that he was somehow given some power of decision making. Thus feeling safe and important, he simply said, 'Okay'.
So while cuddling before sleep my son would say two or three times that he needed the pacifier and then he would suck happily on it for a few minutes, then feel relaxed which was my cue to ask if he was done. As a reply he would spit it out with no complaint.
This 'weaning' went on for a couple of weeks and his desire for the pacifier grew steadily less and less until he more or less forgot all about it.
I consider this a success simply because the pacifier was gone within long and no one was hurt in the process.
Now, why did this work so smoothly? Well, I think one very important thing was that I chose to give him a say in what was to happen to him - not in the big picture, but here-and-now.
He became a co-actor, we were doing this together and he was given a sense of responsibility in identifying own needs and lack of needs. And most importantly his needs weren't disregarded - they were fulfilled completely, 100% ... without going over the top.
So was I permissive? I my view, I wasn't (even though I didn't make a clean cut with the pacifier) but of course you're more than welcome to have your own opinion.
Had I been permissive, I would probably have disregarded the dentist's advice out of fear for my son's reaction and then missed out on my obligation to keep an eye on the long term perspective.
So spelling it out; permissiveness tends to close its eyes for the long term perspective to achieve a short term peace of mind. Being loving has an eye for the long term perspective, but connects to the child in the moment to make sure needs such as comfort, respect, inclusion in here-and-now decision making are fulfilled.
And if I were to make a quick reference to the aforementioned mirror effect: by showing respect, understanding, acceptance and cooperation, I got the same things right back.
To help my clients apply the steps I teach, I usually explain to them the compelling outcome (i.e. improved self-esteem, better relationships with their children, more cooperation…etc.) they could achieve. So can you tell us about the positive influence of applying those steps that you mentioned?
The positive outcome is dual in
nature - I think it's a win win for everybody; parents and children.
The more you become something you want to see in your children, the
more your children will grow towards that too.
So if you want to see more patience in your children, plant the seed in yourself first. Water it. Care for and tend to it. BE it in front of your children and it will rub off. That's the way it works.
I believe that action takes time and commitment to
become constant habits which can be challenging, so how can we keep
the continuum of change?
Oh yes, it does take time and
commitment, no doubt about that. I guess it really depends on how
much you want something. If you really want it enough, you cannot
let go of it. Once you start noticing how much your beingness affects people, you start to realize the tremendous power
of love and what love can do.
So I guess, a good place to start is, once again, to notice how your children react when you are what you want them to be.
Notice the power of unconditional love and acceptance. Notice how sweet it tastes.
Once you've tasted it, you're going to want more. And there is no end to love, it can only grow, and grow, and grow. Let that be your motivation.
I love the cherry on top of the dessert, so what's the cherry you can add on this beautiful dessert we prepared for our dear parents?
Oh, the cherry is sweet.
The cherry is that you start to love more, become more accepting,
become more kind, generous and patient. When you feel this, then
you'll know that you're on the right track.
Once you start feeling these things, you're going to want more and you'll realize that it doesn't just have to be in the cherry. It's in the whole cake, the whole meal. It spreads. It's that sweet.
Don't take my words for grated, though, try it and decide for yourself!
These words mark the end of the parenting interview with Abdullah's parenting questions.
I hope you enjoyed reading it just as much as we did making it.
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